By Lisa Friedman
WASHINGTON — A federal report released on Tuesday found the Trump administration set a rock-bottom price on the damages done by greenhouse gas emissions, enabling the government to justify the costs of repealing or weakening dozens of climate change regulations.
The report by the Government Accountability Office, Congress’s nonpartisan investigative arm, said the Trump administration estimated the harm that global warming will cause future generations to be seven times lower than previous federal estimates. Reducing that metric, known as the “social cost of carbon,” has helped the administration massage cost-benefit analyses, particularly for rules that allow power plants and automobiles to emit more planet-warming carbon dioxide.
Critics described the Trump administration’s move as turning a deliberate blind eye to the dangers of climate change. Some critics likened it to President Trump downplaying the risks of the coronavirus, hoping it would “go away” but instead leaving the country unprepared for the pandemic.
Michael Greenstone, an economist at the University of Chicago, said the Trump administration’s calculations were not done in good faith.
“It was entirely a political act. I don’t think anyone pretended that those moves were justified,” he said.